Good Samaritan, San Jose RNs: Short Staffing, COVID-19 Surge Putting Patients at Risk
Registered nurses at HCA’s Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose will hold a social distancing action Monday to alert the public to what they say is an alarming trend of unsafe staffing throughout the hospital that, coupled with the ongoing pandemic surge, is putting patients at risk.
What: Good Samaritan RNs Voice Alarm on Unsafe Staffing
When: Monday, July 13, 2020, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Good Samaritan Hospital, 2425 Samaritan Dr., San Jose
Nurses report severe short staffing across the hospital, including in maternal-child services which were supposed to be expanded to replace the closure of women’s services at Regional Medical Center, the other HCA hospital in San Jose, as well as in the emergency department, telemetry, where patients are on heart monitors, and in intensive care.
“It is imperative that the administration act immediately to protect patients and our frontline caregivers,” said Good Samaritan RN Lindy Herrerra. “These conditions are dangerous, they put our patients in jeopardy when they are vulnerable and need high quality care which overwhelmed nurses are hard pressed to provide when we don’t have the support we need at the bedside.”
In some units, nurses report, even managers have admitted that staffing decisions are based on budget goals, not patient acuity, the severity of patient illness.
“When we have to rush from patient to patient because of the hospital’s failure to ensure enough staff, we are not able to provide the individualized care each of our patients need and deserves. It also can lead to mistakes in care delivery,” said Lydia Gmerek, a neonatal intensive care RN.
“Hospital administrators have failed to respond to the surge in infected patients, and suspected infected cases,” said John Pasha, RN. “Too many nurses continue to work without the optimum personal protective equipment we need, and too many have not been told when they are exposed to an infected patient.”
The hospital, nurses say, is not using airborne precautions for all COVID-19 patients, and even told nurses, including those exposed to the virus, that they don’t need a test and if they want one have to go outside to get a test. Testing for patients has also been inadequate.
It has been six weeks since HCA shut down maternal-child care at Regional with promises to guarantee East San Jose residents who had counted on that hospital would be assured safe care at Good Samaritan. But proper care for birthing mothers, and pre and post-partum care have been substantially undermined by short staffing that has led to unsafe conditions, such as potential exposure of mothers and newborns to COVID-19 infected patients.
Despite HCA’s commitment on closing Women’s Services at Regional, HCA failed to transfer Regional labor and delivery RNs to Good Samaritan, exacerbating the staffing crisis at Good Samaritan.
In the emergency room, staffing has been so short there has been mixing of infected patients with other patients while nurses have to use the same personal protective equipment for all of them.
In the telemetry unit, nurses without the clinical expertise for telemetry patients have been brought in to cover for inadequate staffing, again an unsafe practice. In intensive care, especially when a patient is coding, staffing is inadequate. On general medical floors, RNs have not had the support staff they need to provide full services and care for patients.
Throughout the hospital, nurses are so swamped many are increasingly unable to take meal and rest breaks, putting them at risk of exhaustion and fatigue which is a recipe for medical errors.
Good Samaritan RNs have raised concerns with hospital management to no avail. In one case, when the staff nurse elected Professional Performance Committee met with a top nurse administrator to seek solutions to a growing crisis, the executive stormed out of the meeting refusing to even engage in the discussion, nurses report.
“This hospital is in crisis – for the nurses, for the patients, for our community,” said California Nurses Association President Malinda Markowitz, RN, who worked many years at Good Samaritan and is a San Jose resident. “HCA has created these conditions and must take responsibility to fix them. They have an obligation to this community and must be held accountable.”